WaterShapes

The web site for all professionals and consumers who've made or want to make water a part of their lives

Sound Options

An amenity once found almost exclusively on major commercial properties, sophisticated outdoor sound systems are becoming increasingly popular in today’s residential landscapes and gardens.  In fact, says audio specialist Scott Sylvester, modern speaker systems are adding all-new dimensions to exterior spaces, giving watershapers and others the opportunity to provide their clients and guests with a complete outdoor sensory experience.

An amenity once found almost exclusively on major commercial properties, sophisticated outdoor sound systems are becoming increasingly popular in today’s residential landscapes and gardens.  In fact, says audio specialist Scott Sylvester, modern speaker systems are adding all-new dimensions to exterior spaces, giving watershapers and others the opportunity to provide their clients and guests with a complete outdoor sensory experience. 

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Shaping the Night

Effective landscape-lighting design requires a careful balance of several key elements, explains Janet Lennox Moyer, the chief among them being the fine art of lighting plant material.  In this feature, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of exterior lighting describes the way she approaches this part of her projects, revealing the thought processes and practicalities involved in making greenery come alive when the sun sets.
Effective landscape-lighting design requires a careful balance of several key elements, explains Janet Lennox Moyer, the chief among them being the fine art of lighting plant material. In this feature, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of exterior lighting describes the way she approaches this part of her projects, revealing the thought processes and practicalities involved in making greenery come alive when the sun sets.
By Janet Lennox Moyer

We all know that plants are beautiful in daylight.  Perhaps less well known is the vast visual potential they posses when carefully and thoughtfully lit at night.

It’s no small challenge.  Indeed, maximizing the beauty of most any landscape while also ensuring that your lighting design works well throughout the lifetime of the landscape requires a keen understanding of both plant materials and the lighting techniques that will bring them to life when the sun goes down.  Furthermore, surrounding watershapes with well-lit spaces and foliage will add a distinctive aesthetic dimension to the overall design.

To my mind, there’s no substitute for paying attention to every plant in the plan, because overlooking any of them or ignoring the role each has to play in the overall landscape will almost invariably detract from the effectiveness of the lighting design.  You can’t overlook technology, either, or the need to sort through the variety of techniques that can be used to light plants while keeping an eye on a wide range of practical, aesthetic and creative issues.

When you encompass all of this successfully, the results will often

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Alive by Design

For more than 25 years, sculptor Dale J. Evers has created sculptures that feature a broad spectrum of marine and aquatic life.  In recent years, however, the focus of his work has moved from the refined atmosphere of art galleries into the world of watershape and landscape design – a shift, he says, that has energized his work and led him to a mode of design that lets him draw his cues not only from nature, but also from clients and settings.
For more than 25 years, sculptor Dale J. Evers has created sculptures that feature a broad spectrum of marine and aquatic life. In recent years, however, the focus of his work has moved from the refined atmosphere of art galleries into the world of watershape and landscape design – a shift, he says, that has energized his work and led him to a mode of design that lets him draw his cues not only from nature, but also from clients and settings.
By Dale J. Evers

The most famous artists and designers often become known for one particular style or motif.  When we see the cubism of Pablo Picasso or the drip paintings of Jackson Pollack, for example, we firmly link those distinctive artistic “moves” with the artists themselves. In some cases, those associations are extremely positive and add to the artist’s or designer’s mystique and prestige – certainly the case with Picasso and Pollack.

For other artists who are less famous, however, an identifiable mode of expression can lead to confinement, predictability and, in some cases, a needless limitation of vision and creative possibilities.  

Since I began my career in the early 1980s, I’ve focused on capturing aquatic life forms in mixed-media sculptures to such an extent that my name is associated with the genre – although I’m certainly no Picasso.  Indeed, in the years I’ve been active, there have been so many sculptures, statues and paintings depicting whales, dolphins and fish that the genre I love has become something of a cliché.

So many consumers love such images that a vast number of enterprising artists have stepped in to meet the demand.  The problem is that so many of these efforts are uninspired and

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Banking on Fog

With a history that now spans more than 35 years, artificial fog systems have found their way into a fascinating range of both practical and aesthetic applications.  Here, John Mee – son of the man credited with creating the first fog systems – relates the history of the technology, discusses how it works and examines the characteristics that make it a natural for a broad range of uses, including many associated with watershapes and landscapes.
With a history that now spans more than 35 years, artificial fog systems have found their way into a fascinating range of both practical and aesthetic applications. Here, John Mee – son of the man credited with creating the first fog systems – relates the history of the technology, discusses how it works and examines the characteristics that make it a natural for a broad range of uses, including many associated with watershapes and landscapes.
By John Mee

From the streets of London to the forbidding environs of horror movies, fog has always been capable of stirring our imaginations.  It’s the stuff clouds are made of and an enduring symbol of mystery, and it’s not too surprising that enterprising people would try to figure out how to generate and use this most elemental of atmospheric vapors as a practical tool and distinctive design element.

To start our story, let’s flash back to 1970, when the first-ever artificial-fog system made its debut at the World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan, as part of Pepsi’s revolutionary Pavilion of the Clouds.

Just a year earlier, my father, cloud expert Tom Mee, had founded Mee Industries to provide instrumentation that was to enable the government to do a better job of studying clouds and airborne pollution.  I can only imagine what it was like for him to receive a call from Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya, who asked him to develop a system that would generate a cloud to would enfold the outside of a 200-foot dome as a key element of her design for the pavilion.  

Interestingly, Nakaya was the daughter of the man who had pioneered snowmaking technology, and I’ve always been intrigued that she wanted to make a

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Flames On

Pyrotechnic-effects expert Karl Nettmann has been involved with creating dramatic flame effects for more than a dozen years, first for television and film productions and now in landscapes and other ‘real world’ spaces.  Here, he discusses the range of effects that can be achieved using fire, the technology behind common systems and basic safety considerations that must be accommodated no matter the simplicity or complexity of an effect.
Pyrotechnic-effects expert Karl Nettmann has been involved with creating dramatic flame effects for more than a dozen years, first for television and film productions and now in landscapes and other ‘real world’ spaces. Here, he discusses the range of effects that can be achieved using fire, the technology behind common systems and basic safety considerations that must be accommodated no matter the simplicity or complexity of an effect.
By Karl Nettmann

As part of my work on movies and television shows through the past dozen years, I’ve developed a range of special effects that focus specifically on fire.  For the science fiction hit Men In Black, for example, I was charged with devising the flame-spewing weapons wielded by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in a spectacular scene in which they shoot down a flying saucer.  

That system involved a range of safety issues along with devising a specially formulated fuel (alcohol mixed with various metals) to create blue flames as well as a combination of inert gases and electronic control systems that were used to extinguish the fire and protect the actors.  As is the way with so much in Hollywood, an on-screen sequence that lasts just a couple of seconds took my team

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Public Light

As is the case in every aspect of the design of spaces intended for public use, the development of lighting systems for parks, plazas, resorts or historical sites requires increased attention to a series of creativity-thwarting factors including cost, durability and safety, says lighting-design guru Janet Lennox Moyer.  Here, she offers insights into what it takes to go beyond those basic needs and truly bring public places to life once the sun goes down.  (Photo:  Lighting by Randy Burkett Lighting Design; photo by William Mathis)
As is the case in every aspect of the design of spaces intended for public use, the development of lighting systems for parks, plazas, resorts or historical sites requires increased attention to a series of creativity-thwarting factors including cost, durability and safety, says lighting-design guru Janet Lennox Moyer. Here, she offers insights into what it takes to go beyond those basic needs and truly bring public places to life once the sun goes down. (Photo: Lighting by Randy Burkett Lighting Design; photo by William Mathis)
By Janet Lennox Moyer

When we work in public settings, the basic demand on lighting designers is for straightforward fixture layouts capable of providing enduring effects and requiring minimal ongoing attention.  That doesn’t sound particularly exciting – and it’s not, unless the lighting designer uses it as a baseline and reaches above and beyond.

Parks, plazas, resorts and historical sites (among many others) are all spaces that really should come alive at night, but their lighting designs often run counter to that vitality by being so utilitarian that they spark boredom rather than energy.  It’s easy to understand why this happens:  Because such spaces play host to high levels of traffic and often multiple uses, they demand lighting treatments that

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Making Light

200711BZ0By Bruce Zaretsky

Those of us who are designers and builders of full-scale outdoor environments (you know who you are) face a distinct challenge:  In our work for our clients, we are expected to provide the outline and details for a huge range of project elements, from watershapes and patios to plantings and walkways and more.  

That list, at least so far as clients are concerned, also includes appropriate lighting, but that is not always something on which we focus.  Indeed, lighting design is seen as a specialty even by those who tackle almost every other project feature – and there’s no problem with that unless

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Night Eyes

When you boil it down, says lighting designer/installer Mike Gambino, landscape-lighting design is about visualizing the way a space will look when the sun goes down.  Here, in the first of a series of articles, he offers a case study in the incredibly varied dynamics that process entails, discussing a project in which he brought new drama to a home already graced by a pool, fountain, statuary, mature trees and elegant garden spaces.
When you boil it down, says lighting designer/installer Mike Gambino, landscape-lighting design is about visualizing the way a space will look when the sun goes down. Here, in the first of a series of articles, he offers a case study in the incredibly varied dynamics that process entails, discussing a project in which he brought new drama to a home already graced by a pool, fountain, statuary, mature trees and elegant garden spaces.
By Mike Gambino

Landscape-lighting design is my obsession:  Not only do I make my living at it, but it has also reached a point where it informs the way I look at every landscape and watershape I encounter – whether I’m working on those spaces or not.

When I visit almost any site – and particularly when I spot an interesting garden – I almost instantaneously begin formulating ideas about how I’d light it.  That’s a good thing, because it keeps me professionally sharp, but it’s also a bit addictive:  Once you start visualizing how dynamic particular places can be when properly lit, you get hooked on the mental exercise and start enjoying the intensity of the experience.

In the beginning, of course, those clear visualizations

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Illuminating Footsteps

b_400_400_16777215_00_images_archart_200809Gambino_200809MG0.jpgBy Mike Gambino

It’s not an uncommon goal:  Nearly all of the homeowners I speak with about  lighting designs want to be able to move safely and comfortably around their properties at night.  Perhaps more important, they want guests and others unfamiliar with those spaces to be able to do the same without anyone being concerned about suffering an injury as a result of a misstep brought on by darkness or glare.      

The interesting this is, some of my clients need convincing when it comes to path or step lighting:  Even if they see

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Designing for Depth

b_400_400_16777215_00_images_archart_200806Gambino_200806MG0.jpgBy Mike Gambino

Although the eye is commonly drawn to structures and other architecture elements found in any given exterior environment, very often it is trees that serve as visual anchors in modern landscapes.  Indeed, they tend to be the largest objects on most properties and will often become focal points even in settings in which they might have started out in supporting roles.

This dominance or even potential for dominance is why, as a lighting designer, I believe that trees should always receive

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The Science of Lighting

When designed and installed properly, a landscape lighting system enables clients to enjoy their watershapes and landscapes well after the sun goes down.  But achieving those satisfactory results, says lighting expert Mike Gambino, requires an understanding not only of the aesthetics of lighting design, but also an appreciation of the technology behind the beauty and an ability to lay components out in ways that electrically balance the system.
When designed and installed properly, a landscape lighting system enables clients to enjoy their watershapes and landscapes well after the sun goes down. But achieving those satisfactory results, says lighting expert Mike Gambino, requires an understanding not only of the aesthetics of lighting design, but also an appreciation of the technology behind the beauty and an ability to lay components out in ways that electrically balance the system.
By Mike Gambino

As I see it, successful landscape lighting is a two-part process:  First, the designer applies aesthetic principles that create the art, then he or she supports that artistic vision with scientific and technological savvy.  One without the other doesn’t work:  You can’t effectively practice the art until you’ve mastered the science.

In my 17 years as a lighting designer, I’ve encountered lots of professionals who have the artistic part of the equation down pat but fall well short when it comes to working with electricity.  The plain fact is, you can use the best fixtures in the world and understand the aesthetic issues like the back of your hand, but if you can’t consistently deliver power to those fixtures at correct, reliable voltages, the overall system will not perform properly and has the potential to become a maintenance nightmare.

There’s no way a single article can bring anyone up to speed with all of the issues involved in the science lighting.  Instead, my intention here is to introduce watershapers to a basic, commonsense approach to laying out low-voltage, halogen lighting systems, the goal being to enable you to converse intelligently and persuasively with lighting designers in the interest of helping

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Pools of Light

b_400_400_16777215_00_images_archart_200911Gambino_200911MG0.jpgBy Mike Gambino

If there’s ever been such a thing as a match made in heaven, swimming pools and landscape lighting lay a strong claim to that perfection.  Separately, they take little-used spaces and transform them to all-day hubs of activity and sources of constant beauty.  Together, however, the magic starts, with pools and landscape lighting systems accentuating each other’s virtues in ways that are tough to quantify or adequately describe.

To landscape lighting designers and installers, pools offer a

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Light Service


b_400_400_16777215_00_images_archart_200908Gambino_200908MG0.jpgBy Mike Gambino

I’m always surprised when I run into clients or prospects who don’t appreciate or fully accept the fact that landscape-lighting systems require routine maintenance.  These are people who easily recognize the need for upkeep when it comes to their swimming pools or landscapes, but this perception simply doesn’t extend to the lighting systems that frequently go along with them.

I suspect this is so because dealing with lighting inside a home is so simple – basically just a matter of changing burned out bulbs as the need arises.  Some also believe that landscape light bulbs should and will last forever, which is

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